Autoimmune Diseases That Cause Hair Loss (Part 1) – Alopecia

Autoimmune Diseases That Cause Hair Loss (Part 1) – Alopecia

Autoimmune disease affects approximately 23 million people around the nation, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks normal healthy cells by mistake. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that cause many different side effects. One side effect of at least six autoimmune diseases includes hair loss. This week we will explore the auto-immune diseases that cause hair loss and why. First up, Alopecia.

Alopecia Areata

This is one of the most commonly known conditions of hair loss because it tends to invoke the most drastic amount of hair loss.  People who have alopecia hair loss experience balding that ranges from completely bald to small bald patches around the scalp, as well as thinning. Affecting almost 7 million people in the US, Alopecia Areata occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles resulting in hair loss.

Other types of Alopecia not exclusive to an autoimmune disease include the following:

Traction Alopecia

This type of alopecia occurs from the continuous pulling of the hair from tightly pulled hairstyles such as braids or ponytails.  Commonly seen in Black women, the condition can be reversed if caught early.  When the condition goes untreated, the damage to the hair follicles can become irreversible.

Central Centrifugal Cicatraical Alopecia

A disease described to almost exclusively affect Black women ages 30 to 55, Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) is the permanent hair loss in the crown of the scalp of which inflammation and scarring occur. CCCA has been known to have many causes which include gene variants, uterine fibroid presence, bacterial and fungal infections, styling and autoimmune disease.


While there is no cure for Alopecia, few may experience hair regrowth without treatment.  Once a diagnosis of Alopecia is made by a dermatologist, it’s often recommended to wait and see if the hair regrows without the need for treatment.

With certain treatments, individuals with alopecia can help regrow their hair or reduce the appearance of Alopecia.

Reducing the Appearance

Wigs, weaves and extensions are temporary options to cover balding and/or thinning. If the individual has enough hair to wear tracks in-between the natural hair, or a sew-in with hair left out at the top, human hair bundles can serve as a sleek natural look. Given the extensions are correctly installed by a professional and carefully maintained, this is a healthy option for alopecia areata hair loss.

People who suffer from traction alopecia or central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia should refrain from wearing extensions or wigs until hair and scalp are strong enough to hold added weight.

Individuals who are completely bald have the option to wear a wig. Wigs nowadays are not like your old grandma’s wig that hung out on the dresser or doorknob, lace wigs are designed to look and feel natural.  From glue-down methods to glueless methods millions of individuals wear lace wigs regardless of hair loss or not. As in other extensions, wig installations should be done by a professional or with proper consultation for installation and maintenance.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association identifies the following as treatments for widespread rapid hair loss caused by alopecia:

Olumiant (baricitinib) –  Recently approved by the FDA in June 2022, Olumiant serves as the first FDA-approved method to treat alopecia.  A Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor commonly used to treat arthritis, it was shown to effectively treat alopecia in a study by Yale School of Medicine’s Associate Professor of Dermatology Dr. Brett King.

Contact Immunotherapy – With a 60 to 70 percent success rate, contact immunotherapy attempts to change the immune system so that it stops attacking the hair follicles.

Methotrexate – A prescribed medicinal treatment, Methotrexate can fully regrow the hair in about 6 to 12 months.  This treatment has a 57 percent success rate but has life-threatening side effects.

Corticosteroids – A medication that suppresses the immune system, corticosteroids can help regrow the hair in approximately six weeks. Its recommended to not take this medication for prolonged periods of time as it causes severe side effects.

 Watch board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Alexis Stephens, discuss alopecia in the video below.

August 7, 2022 millibrandgroup

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